USS Yorktown, moored in Charleston Harbor USS Yorktown, moored in Charleston Harbor The USS Yorktown, moored in Charleston Harbor, just offshore of the future site of the National Medal of Honor Museum. (Photo: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images)

National Medal of Honor museum to be built in South Carolina

Project helmed by Safdie Architects expected to break ground next year.

After a nationwide search, the U.S. National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation has selected the architectural and exhibit teams for a new museum and education center to be built at Patriots Point, near Charleston, S.C. It will be the first museum dedicated to sharing the stories of the nation's Medal of Honor recipients.

Moshe SafdieMoshe Safdie (Photo: Stephen Kelly)

The architect tapped for the project is Israeli-born Moshe Safdie, who came out on top of 22 other candidates to have the honor of designing the museum.

Safdie's architectural ideas date back to his college days when he developed his original thesis for Habitat 67, in Montreal, Canada, a startling apartment complex that premiered ahead of Montreal's hosting of the 1967 World Expo.

Safdie Architects has since become world-renowned for high-profile projects including the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., the Changi Airport in Singapore, and many other government buildings, residential and mixed-use developments, libraries and academic centers, as well as museums. The firm has offices in Boston, Toronto and Jerusalem.

“We are honored to have been selected for the National Medal of Honor Museum,” Safdie told From The Grapevine. “This is a project with a noble mission on a significant site in a great historic city. It is an unbeatable combination and we look forward to the architectural challenge of creating a building worthy of the story which will unfold within it.”

The museum will be built on the eastern shore of Charleston Harbor, home to the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. The foundation expects to break ground in 2015 and to open for visitors in 2017. The 100,000-square-foot facility will include exhibit galleries, an educational center and meeting space.

To design the exhibits, the foundation selected Gallagher & Associates, a museum planning and design firm in Silver Spring, Md., known for its many cultural history projects including the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.

“At the end of this phase, we will have a good idea of what the building and exhibits will look like," said the U.S. National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation's president and CEO, Robert C. Wilburn. Wilburn said that the two teams were chosen for their creativity and ability to create "an informative, inspiring – even transformative experience for visitors."

For Safdie, who is a citizen of Israel, Canada and the U.S., architecture is all about serving the public by designing meaningful and vital spaces that create community. “Every project, the sublime and the ordinary, has critical issues of humanity, of social responsibility,” he said in a CBS News interview. “It could be a housing project; it could be the Institute of Peace; it could be the central library of a city.”

The last quarter of 2014 has been kind to the celebrated architect. The American Institute of Architects recently awarded him a Gold Medal, its highest honor, meant to celebrate an architect whose work is expected to have a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. Safdie is also a recipient of the 1987 Mt. Scopus Award for Humanitarianism from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

future site of the National Medal of Honor MuseumTexas businessman H. Ross Perot and Mayor Linda Page of Mount Pleasant, S.C., at the future site of the National Medal of Honor Museum. (Photo: National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation)

The new museum will be designed to encourage visitors to reflect on the service and sacrifice of the medal's recipients of the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor for valor in combat, presented to 3,487 men and one woman since 1861. According to the foundation's website, the museum "will be a place where we can learn from their example – a place that will make the stories of the Medal’s recipients relevant and inspiring for all Americans."

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